If it's OK for a Leopard to change its spots, then perhaps it's fine for this hard-headed TV guy to change his mind.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

The
nature of the course for the Men's Elite Road Race at the National
Championships has been a bone of contetion for some riders in recent
years.

But after witnessing what I regard as the best one-day
race ever held on Australian soil at Buninyong at the weekend, I feel
the issue should be laid to rest - for the time being at least.

What
television viewers across the nation saw during SBS's inaugural live
coverage of domestic cycling's showpiece event was a classic showdown of
road racing at its most intense and aggressive best.

Taking the
titles to Buninyong each year since 2002 (apart from two years when
they were held in South Australia) doesn't seem to sit well with
supporters outside Victoria.

Some view the nationals as being
too Victoria-centric - they argue the festival must be spread across all
states and raced over different parcours to suit a variety of riders.

It
might be a valid argument, but I wonder whether the crowds that were
thrilled by the Battle of Buninyong would have been lured if the
Championships were held in any other regional centre let alone major
capital city?

An estimated crowd of 25,000 people lined the 10.2 km course.

It
was the largest gathering for a men's road race - challenged only by
the numbers that turned out on the final day of the 2010 UCI Road World
Championships in Geelong.

Why would Cycling Australia move the
titles when there is so much commitment and enthusiasm to keep them in
Ballarat by the local city council and naming rights sponsor, Mars
Chocolates?

I agree negotiating the climb to the Mount Buninyong
summit on 16 occasions may not suit a pure sprinter, but the traditional
fast men of the peloton have come close to jagging the gold medal and
green-and-gold jersey.

Last year Matt Goss missed out by a
whisker on clinching the national jersey, losing only to Jack Bobridge
for a place on the top podium.

This year sprinters such as Chris
Sutton and Steel von Hoff were in the mix until the final climb, only
to be shaken with a final surge by eventual place-getters of Simon
Gerrans, Matthew Lloyd and Richie Porte.

I understand Cycling
Australia is being pressured to bow to the request of some riders by
making next year's Men's Elite Road Race "easier", Mark Renshaw among
them.

Yesterday the new Rabobank recruit again reiterated his calls from last year to give the sprinters a real chance at the title.



That
would potentially mean keeping the racing at it's traditional home but
reducing the summit climbs to half. But wouldn't that take away from the
tremendous spectacle we saw on Sunday?

I once called for change, but I admit the buzz of the men's race has forced me to re-evaluate my original thoughts.

To use a tired old cliche - if it ain't broke why fix it?

The
crowds love it, the TV viewing audience adored it and apart from a
small handful who claim "it's too hard", so do the riders.

Ballarat
is a cycling city filled with a knowledgable and appreciative cycling
community - one that is blessed with a natural course that would be hard
to replace.